Assessing pediatric and young adult substance use through analysis of prehospital data

Elizabeth L. Seaman, Mathew J. Levy, J. Lee Jenkins, Cassandra Chiras Godar, Kevin G. Seaman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Introduction Substance use in young adults is a significant and growing problem. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel often encounter this problem, yet the use of prehospital data to evaluate the prevalence and magnitude of substance abuse has been limited. Hypothesis/Problem This study evaluated drug and alcohol use through the use of prehospital and EMS data in one suburban county in Maryland (USA). The primary hypothesis was that the type of drug being abused is associated with age. The secondary hypothesis was substance abuse incidence is associated with location. The tertiary hypothesis was that substance abuse is associated with a history of mental illness. Methods Deidentified patient care reports (PCRs) were obtained during a 24-month period from October 2010 through September 2012 for patients 0 through 25 years of age. Inclusion criteria included chief complaint of alcohol overdose, drug overdose, or the use of naloxone. Results The primary hypothesis was supported that age was associated with drug category (P <.001). Younger adolescents were more likely to use household items, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter drugs, whereas older adolescents were more likely to use illicit drugs. The secondary hypothesis was supported that both alcohol (P <.001) and drugs (P <.001) were associated with location of call. Calls involving alcohol were more likely to be at a home or business, whereas calls involving drugs were more likely to be at home or at a public venue. The tertiary hypothesis was supported that both alcohol (P =.001) and drug use (P <.001) were associated with history of mental illness. Older adolescents were more likely to report a history of mental illness. Chi-squared tests indicated there were significant differences between genders and drug category (P =.002) and gender and current suicide attempt (P =.004). Females were more likely to use prescription drugs, whereas males were more likely to use illicit drugs. Calls involving younger adolescents under 18 were more likely to be at school or the mall, whereas calls involving older adolescents were likely to be at a prison, public venue, or a business. Conclusion All three hypotheses were supported: the type of substance being abused was associated with both age and location, and substance abuse was associated with a history of mental illness. This research has important implications for understanding how EMS resources are utilized for substance use. This information is valuable in not only the education and training of prehospital care providers, but also for the targeting of future public health interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)468-472
Number of pages5
JournalPrehospital and disaster medicine
Volume29
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 4 2014

Keywords

  • adolescents
  • ambulance
  • patient care reports
  • pediatrics
  • substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency

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